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Out & About in Cleveland

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Plexus Luncheon and Stonewall Democratic Club

On Wednesday, June 18th, we had a good lunch with about 17 other members of Plexus, the Chamber of Commerce for the LGBT Community and Allies at Mavis Winkle on Rockside Road in Independence. What we like the most about Plexus is businesses embracing diversity which was very apparent today by the range of businesses represented. Among the attendees were Holly Spann of State Farm, Karen B. Williams of Diplomat Health Care, Olga Delassandro who is an advisor/consultant for non-profits, Scott Gerlach of the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland, Ronda Toth from the Legacy Group which is an insurance brokerage firm, Kuz Pellot of Xerox, Diana Fretwell of ICNS which is a technology consulting and engineering firm.

The focus of today was to have a good lunch and to get to know each other. There were several announcements of upcoming events, however, and plans were discussed regarding the information booths that Plexus plans to have at Cleveland Pride on June 28th and the Gay Games starting on August 9th.

Everyone got to introduce themselves and we said that we were from the office of Margaret W. Wong and Associates which embraces diversity and plans to have a booth at Cleveland Pride and is sponsoring the Gay Games.

We had another good time in the afternoon when we went to Hellreigel's Inn on Mentor Avenue in Painesville to participate in the 4th Annual Bocce Tournament that is put on each year by Future Emerging Leaders of Lake County (FUEL).

We had heard that there was a game called Bocce but had never played it before. It was a very warm afternoon and most of the players wisely wore shorts and short sleeve shirts while we did the best we could wearing slacks.

The best way to describe this game is that it is composed of two two-person teams who take turns tossing a hard ball out into a field trying to come as close as they can to a little white ball previously thrown out. The point system is a bit complicated but in the end the team that wins is the one that consistently gets their hard balls closer to the white ball than their opponents.

We teamed up with Julie Markley of Old Carolina Barbecue and our friendly opponents were Josh Strickland (who is a distant cousin of the former Ohio Governor) and Renee Sanden of the Brunner, Sanden, Deitrick Funeral Home and Cremation Center. Everyone played well and had a good time playing and in the end we won the first game because we scored 15 points faster than the other team.

We also had time to do some business here today because we had a conversation with a person who works at a prominent local restaurant which employs a lot of immigrants and we exchanged contact information should an immigration issue emerge.

We had a really good time playing Bocce and were motivated to find out a little more about it so we looked up "Bocce" on the Wikipedia encyclopedia and found that it dates back to ancient games in the Roman Empire. It was developed into its present form in Italy where it is very popular and it is played in areas that have Italian immigrants including Australia, North America, and South America. It is also very popular on the Eastern side of the Adriatic especially in Croatia, Montenegro and southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition a form of it is played in places like Slovenia and southern France but it is called by different names in those places.

Our last event today was a Stonewall Democratic Club party at the lovely home of Kate Kennedy, who is VP for Political Strategy, in Cleveland.

We initially gathered on Ms. Kennedy's patio but there was a sudden thunderstorm which forced us to hurried collect all of the food, tables, and decorations and file through the garage and up the stairs to Ms. Kennedy's home where we quickly re-arranged things and the party resumed even though things were a bit cramped but nobody minded this much because we were having too good of a time eating, conversing and speaking with local candidates in the November 2014 election.

After an hour or most of us gathered in the living room to hear what the candidates had to say and there were quite a few of them here tonight including Armond Budish (County Executive), John Patrick Carney (Ohio Auditor), Sherrie Miday (Judicial), Francine Goldberg (Judicial), Michael Wager (U.S. Congress), Stephanie Howse (Ohio House), Joe Canese (Ohio House), Anthony Fossaceca (Ohio House), Todd LaVeck (Ohio House), Kent Smith (Ohio House), Mark Szabo (County Council).

No speech was exactly the same, of course, but they all put emphasis on their support for marriage equality and for anti-discrimination legislation. Kate Kennedy said that "we are here to establish relationships with these candidates" and perhaps consider volunteering in their campaigns.

A standout tonight was Todd LaVeck who was here with his small son. Mr. LaVeck coaches t-ball on the West side and initially had not planned to come tonight but the thunderstorm ended their game so he loaded the child into his car initially planning to drop him off at Grandma's but he ultimately discovered that there was not enough time so he and his son would have to come directly here. Despite his game being cancelled, the little boy behaved very well too and didn't seem to mind being here and got along fine with everyone.

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